It’s that time of year when the weather gets undeniably FREEZING and all those germs you’ve avoided in the warmer months start to creep deeper into your body and squat for longer periods of time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a high stress job, have lots of little kids trying to snot up your hands, or just exposed to more than a few sick people coughing without covering, you will want to avoid sickness and do everything you can to kick that cold to the curb if you do get a “bug” or two.
So here are five of my favorite herbal allies to keep me on my feet and not incapacitated, drooling in pain on the couch.
Everyone says take echinacea when you’re getting a cold and there’s a reason! Echinacea is great for boosting your immunity and helping your body to be strong enough to fight off the intrusive germs within. Echinacea tricks your body into thinking it is under imminent attack so the immune system kicks into full force meeting up with the echinacea herb which says “nah, I’m cool– but this guy over here…” So if there are any intrusive germs around, the body’s immune system will get rid of them with the guidance of echinacea. Think of echinacea as your immune system consultant showing the body where it could use a little extra fighting power to keep running a tight operation of health. Now the trick is to take echinacea as often as possible. As one of my teachers has said, “take it if someone sneezes, if you’re going out, if you’re going to be around kids, if your kid looks at you funny…” Do this, and you’ll be in good hands.
Personally, this is one of the best tasting herbs! Some people cook astragalus root herb with their rice or include it in soups when they’re not decocting* a cup of tea. Astragalus helps your “deep immunity” or strengthens the immune system from the inside all the way out. It has anti-viral and anti-oxidant properties so astragalus is quite helpful in warding off those pesky ailments that come knocking. It helps reduce stress which is crucial as high levels of stress to the body weaken the immune system. As with echinacea, the more you take it, the more often you take it, the better it is for you.
Adrenal fatigue from stress is a huge problem in a fast-paced culture that demands actions not always in the best interest of the actors. Licorice supports the adrenal system to help reduce the harmful impacts of stress. It’s also soothing and helps get mucous or other lung garbage out (expectorant). Licorice is super sweet and is the perfect substitute for sugar and sugary foods which can increase your vulnerability to sickness as well.
I love garlic! This is my favorite recommendation for people who are sick. A raw clove as often as you can stand it will give a swift kick to any cold! Garlic is pretty intense so I recommend sticking the raw clove in a date or blending it in with some juice to take a little fire from the raw fury of these little cloves. The medicinal properties of raw garlic are really only there when it’s raw so if you want a fool proof helper, it’s got to be the pungent goodness of garlic. Garlic is anti-viral (so good for the flu), anti-bacterial and anti-microbial (good for anything not the flu), and helps open the bronchial tubes as well as supporting the liver (the organ that detoxes everything including the leftovers from an immune system takedown of a virus or bacterial invasion). And just to add, garlic is not just anti-bacterial everything like goldenseal or other potent herbs, garlic is anti-harmful-bacterial. Short and sweet: garlic is amazing and combined with a little movement is by far the way to go when you know you’re sick and you’re ready to be well again.
Ginger Root has similar properties to garlic: anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and it has the added bonus of being supremely kind to your tummy. It’s also a pungent herb like garlic so it can be “spicy” to the tongue raw though the raw is where the power lies. Ginger is great to drink as a tea (decoct this as well) and it is great to drink as a juice or include in smoothies (like garlic or any of the other herbs listed for that matter!). A little bit of ginger every day will not only aid digestion (to support the liver which supports the immune system), it will also help support the healthy bacteria to grow and keep viruses at bay and keep you warm! Ginger is warming which is great protection against “colds.”
So there you have 5 ways to support yourself in a flu & cold season and just in general.
Here’s to your health!
*Decocting is a specific term for boiling herb roots. They take more extraction so you want to boil them for about 20 minutes (as long as it takes to cook rice or soup!) in a pot of water and then drink what’s left. Either that or you can let the roots sit in a jar overnight and drink the water in the morning.